This is a work of fiction.
The next few days passed by quickly. We all had a lot of fun together, except for Sammy. When we were at camp, he stayed in the boys’ tent. When we went out, he stayed in the van if at all possible. He did dishes when it was his turn, and he stopped doing mean things, but he hardly spoke to anyone.
After Andy and Emily had to take their kids home, we had another full week left. Sammy started to come out of the tent more often, but Freckles became moody and withdrawn. At first, I figured it was because he missed Dan, but it continued for far too long, and on our last Wednesday at camp, I took the opportunity to ask him about it while he was helping me wash the dishes.
I waited until he’d washed a few plates, and as I began to dry them, I said, “Has something been bugging you lately?”
“You don’t seem your usual happy self. Is there something eating you?”
“No.” He kept washing dishes and ignored me when I tried to talk to him.
I felt uneasy letting it go, but I had to. If he didn’t want to tell me, I couldn’t make him, and maybe it really was just that he was missing Dan, or possibly missing his mom.
On Thursday, Freckles looked tired and sat in the tent most of the day.
He hardly ate any dinner, and Curly asked him if he was okay. He nodded and everyone went to bed as usual.
I heard a noise and looked at my watch. It was midnight. I opened the tent flap. In the moonlight, I could see a boy standing near our tent, and it sounded as though he were crying.
“Is there something bothering you?”
“Can you tell me about it?”
Had he played some prank that nobody had discovered yet?
“Let’s go sit at the picnic table so we don’t wake anybody up.”
He followed me silently over to the picnic tables and we sat down.
“What’s wrong? I promise to listen and not say anything until you finish talking. Deal?”
“I’m not supposed to tell.”
“Who said you’re not supposed to tell?”
“Uh, like, Sammy.”
“Sammy’s not an adult, and I am. Please tell me.”
“It’s like, really bad.”
“Please tell me anyway. The worse it is, the more I need to know.”
“It’s about Dan’s dad.”
He kicked the table support nervously.
“What about him?”
“Sammy told me he tried to like . . . feel him up.”
He kicked the table again. I didn’t like that, but I didn’t say anything.
“Sammy ran away. He told me and said I couldn’t be Dan’s friend after what his dad did.”
He kicked the table some more, and I waited, wanting to keep my promise not to speak until he’d finished.
“I want to be Dan’s friend. He didn’t do anything. I told Sammy it wasn’t fair if Dan couldn’t be my friend. Do you know what he did?”
“No. Who did what?”
“Sammy punched me here.” Freckles pointed to his stomach. “He told me to shut up. He got really mad. He said I couldn’t play with a pervert’s kid, but it’s not fair. Dan didn’t do anything. Do I have to stop being his friend?”
“No, you don’t have to stop being his friend. You were right, and Sammy shouldn’t have punched you. Did he say exactly what happened?”
“No. He just said Andy tried to feel him up and told me not to tell anybody.”
“Why did he say not to tell?”
“He said it would make a big stink and get us all in big trouble. Like the court would want to know if he felt us up too and we’d all get laughed at at school and stuff. People would talk about us on like Facebook or something. He said Mom would lose her job.”
Had Andy really tried to “feel Sammy up,” or was Sammy trying to end Freckles’s friendship with Dan?
How could I get to the truth?
“Thank you for telling me.”
“W-what are you g-g-gonna do?”
“For now, I think we should go back to bed.”
“What about tomorrow?”
“I’ll talk to Sammy next time he does dishes.”
“Is Mom going to lose her job?”
I waited outside the boys’ tent until all was quiet, and then I went back to bed, but I couldn’t sleep.
Had I missed something and Sammy had gotten hurt because of me?
Had Andy patted Sammy on the back and Sammy had misinterpreted the friendly gesture as Andy trying to “feel him up?”
Was there some reason Sammy wanted to hurt Andy?
I pictured him in my mind. He looked so much like Chuck.
Did Sammy dislike Andy because he resembled his stepdad?
How could I get to the bottom of it and be absolutely sure?
If Andy had touched Sammy inappropriately, then Dan and Steven might also have been abused. And what about Berkeley? For that matter, what about Lydia and Sienna?
How could I lie there doing nothing if Andy was a monster?
But what if he was the nice, normal man he seemed?
How could I ever know for sure?
My brain and body tossed and turned, and in the gray light of an overcast morning, I still had no answers.